tv NBC Nightly News NBC August 4, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
on the broadcast tonight, moment of crisis. >> 911. >> i need to talk, there's a shooting. >> what's going on? who got shot? >> i got shot. >> the first dramatic calls for help after that man with a gun and a gripe opened fire on his co-workers. also tonight, marriage wars. a momentous decision tonight for same-sex couples, but it is not the last word. killing the well. it appears to be working, but there's a new controversy. what happened to all that oil? and making a difference, just by putting one foot in front of the other, meet an extraordinary 12-year-old boy on a mission. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good evening. i'm lester holt in for brian, who is on assignment tonight. a historic ruling from a federal judge in california. the judge struck down a provision called proposition 8 which bans marriage between same-sex couples. this is the first time any federal court has ever ruled on whether a state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the u.s. constitution. and tonight the judge says, yes, it does. it's almost certain this case will end up in the united states supreme court. but tonight nbc's george lewis has some of the reaction live in los angeles. george, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. tonight proponents of same-sex marriage are celebrating the fact that for the first time ever a federal judge has said a ban on such marriages is unconstitutional. opponents say they will appeal.
outside the courthouse in san francisco, a group of same-sex marriage supporters cheers the news. >> this is a historic day. this is a great victory for us. >> reporter: the ruling comes in a legal battle launched by two gay couples in california is a huge victory for same-sex couples nationwide who want to marry. >> two loving families said their commitment could only be second class in the eyes of the law. >> reporter: they challenged proposition 8 approved two years ago by 52% of the state's voters. it amended the california constitution to say that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. >> is there a public interest in marriage between a man and a woman? >> reporter: the group stepped in arguing redefining marriage would weaken it. traditional marriage, they said, is best for raising children. but in his ruling federal judge vaughn walker said proposition
eight violates the u.s. constitution's guarantee of equal rights by creating same-sex couples differently without a sufficient legal reason. >> today our system of justice has said to the nation all americans are entitled to the same freedoms. >> reporter: time has passed, the judge said, when the roles of the genders in marriage were distinct, when it was male dominated. marriage under law now, he said, is a union of equals. evidence from the trial, the judge said, showed that same-sex parents are of equal quality and proposition 8 makes it no more like likely that opposite sex couples will marry and raise children. >> the judge has chucked the constitution, imposed his own agenda. he's made a lot of people happy in the gay community in san francisco. but he is the most dangerous type of judge in america. >> reporter: all prop 8 does, the judge said, is enshrine a state law the notion opposite-sex couples are
superior, something he says the constitution doesn't permit. now the judge did put his own ruling on hold. he says he'll decide later whether to let the ban on same-sex marriage remain in place while the case is under appeal. so gay and lesbian couples won't be heading back to the altar here right away. lester? >> george lewis in los angeles tonight, thank you. here on the east coast there are dramatic audio tapes out tonight, desperate calls for help to 911 after that gunman in connecticut opened fire yesterday on his co-workers killing eight before taking his own life. we get the latest now from nbc's peter alexander. >> 911. >> i need to talk to -- there's a shooting. >> who got shot? >> i got shot. >> i need some information. who got shot? >> i need the cops. omar thornton is shooting people. i just got shot. >> reporter: when steve hollander called police early tuesday morning, the company vice president was already a survivor. grazed by two gunshots, one in the jaw. >> bleeding all over the place. >> okay. how many people got shot?
>> i don't know. >> okay. you don't know. and you're shot where? >> in my head. >> you're shot in the head? >> yeah. >> reporter: hollander hid in an office as the gunman, 34-year-old omar thornton, continued his rampage. >> he's still shooting. i hear guns out there. >> he used to work there? >> yeah, till i just fired him. >> today? >> today. he's in the parking lot chasing people. >> he's in the parking lot chasing people. >> reporter: his wife, susan hollander, is still stunned. >> it's just shocking. it's still shocking. it's unbelievable. >> reporter: it would be the deadliest workplace shooting in connecticut state history. nine dead, including the shooter. >> i can't believe the guy is gone. >> reporter: police say during a disciplinary hearing tuesday morning, thornton watched surveillance video that showed him stealing from a company truck. then thornton was escorted out of the office, stopping only to grab his lunch box that police say had two 9 millimeter handguns hidden inside.
joanne hannah claims her daughter dated thornton for eight years and thornton told her daughter he'd complained to his supervisors about being racially harassed at work. both the teamsters union and the company say there is no record of any complaints from thornton. >> if you knew the hollanders, they would never tolerate that. >> reporter: among the victims, 50-year-old lewis felder jr. the father of three was a respe respected member of stamford, connecticut's orthodox jewish community. remembered today as this entire community mourns its devastating loss. peter alexander, nbc news, manchester, connecticut. want to turn to the oil disaster. the coast guard said today that static kill operation to stop the oil flow is working and they do not expect any more oil to gush into the gulf of mexico.
nbc's chief environmental correspondent anne thompson joins us tonight from venice, louisiana. anne, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. bp says the static kill is working extremely well, but tonight there's a new controversy over just how much oil is left in the gulf. 107 days after the leak to poison the gulf began, president obama delivered some good news. >> a report out today by our scientists show that the vast majority of the spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water. >> reporter: but many of louisiana's fishermen who still can't fish because of the spill find the government's claims hard to believe. >> i think they're jumping the gun way too quick. >> they should have never put the dispersant on to begin with. that's why they wanted it they wanted the oil to sink because you can't see it. >> they need to go to orange to sink. beach, alabama. it's pouring in. >> reporter: the report says 33% of the oil was recovered, burned or chemically dispersed. 25% evaporated or dissolved. 16% broken down naturally into
microscopic droplets and 26% is on or just below the surface, washed ashore or collected from shore. that's more than a million barrels, four times the size of the exxon valdez spill. it is far less than some of the doomsday predictions some say day predictions some say have happened but no reason to stand down. >> we want to be very, very clear that this does not mean there is more to be done. there remains a lot to be done. >> reporter: oil spills can take years to reveal their impact. >> we can't stop pursuing the answers. >> reporter: as alaska's chief environmentalist during the exxon spill, dennis saw the collapse of the herring in prince william sound. >> the documentation of the crash in the fishery was two years after the spill, the exxon valdez spill. >> reporter: so just because things are good today doesn't mean they'll be good a year from now? >> that's right. >> reporter: what is good today is the static kill. so far the heavy mud is holding back the oil giving the energy
secretary steven chu confidence about the well. >> what we've seen is consistent with an undamaged well, that's good news. >> reporter: it certainly is. now, the next decision secretary chu, his team of scientists and bp has to make is whether to cement the well from the top or just do it from the bottom with the relief well. lester. >> anne, if so much of that oil has in fact disappeared, that's good news. at the same time, it raises more questions about these dispersants that were used. could that prevent some of these areas from being fished into the near future? >> reporter: well, they don't know that yet, lester. they say only 8% of all the oil that spilled was actually dispersed chemically by that, you know, though things that came down. using the correct 9,500. but that is the big question. there's so much we don't know. and what are the long-term impacts of using that dispersant. how does it break down, what does it do to the food chain. those are all questions we're still waiting answers on.
>> nbc's anne thompson in venice, louisiana, thank you. overseas tonight there is new evidence that america's ally in afghanistan, president hamid karzai, is turning a blind eye to blatant corruption while u.s. troops are fighting and dying for his government's survival. we have exclusive details from nbc news national investigative correspondent michael isikoff in our washington bureau. michael, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. sources tell nbc news an anti-afghan corruption unit working with u.s. investigators developed rock-solid evidence implicating a top karzai national security aide in a bribery scheme. know hammed is a mohammed salahi was caught on wire taps agreeing to a bribe for helping squash a money laundering investigation. american officials pressed for salahi to be arrested. he was, but he was released the same day, a u.s. official tells nbc, quote, at the direction of the palace. karzai himself has now ordered an investigation of the afghan anti-corruption unit. he said in a statement the u.s.-backed corruption
investigators are violating, quote, human rights principles. the senate foreign relations committee today delayed releasing a major report on afghan corruption because of fears its publication could endanger the lives of the afghan investigators. lester. >> michael isikoff, good to have you on the broadcast, thank you. in pakistan tonight, these are desperate hours for millions in the flood zone, but they are surviving. many have no food, no water and no clue what happens next. s nistskephagoe reports from one of the many hard-hit go towns in northwest pakistan. >> reporter: the people of nowshera are knee deep in mud and neck high in misery. the rain has stopped here for now and the water is receding but it brings little good news to this small town in northwest pakistan. there is hardly any food or water and aid has yet to arrive. widespread illness might get here first. >> translator: the majority of people are suffering from skin diseases and diarrhea.
everyone is sick. >> reporter: it is the worst flooding the country has seen in 80 years. an estimated 1,500 are dead and tens of thousands more are stranded, some still stuck on rooftops. lst last thursday the river in noshera surged 16 feet in just three hours. some had no escape. among the worst hit were afghan refugees. 50,000 of them living in this now decimated camp. many assumed the local mosque would be a safe place. but it wasn't safe at all. the water was rising too high too fast. a small boy and an old man hung from one of these ceiling fans for three hours but they couldn't hold on forever. the water eventually swept them away. for those that survived, setting up tents in the middle of a busy street is one of the only options. >> so far we haven't received any from the government. no food, no water, no help, nothing.
>> reporter: a european trip despite the disaster. the only aid we saw was a small water station set up by the military. the whole town sharing the same three cups. caan wants more than water. he wants to rebuild. his family of ten escaped the flood but the house and business are destroyed. and like many here, he is afraid. the monsoon season has only just begun. stephanie gosk, nbc news. back here at home the brutal heat wave across the south and midwest has claimed nine lives as triple-digit temperatures have dug in across the lower mississippi valley, texas and arkansas. the heat index, the temperature and relative humidity, was measured at a staggering 113 in parts of the south today. no significant relief from the miserable heat is expected until saturday. we've got a lot more to tell you about here tonight on "nightly news." when we continue, it's the president's birthday. he's back home in chicago, but where's the rest of the first family?
the senate today stopped a republican filibuster holding back a bill that would give $26 billion in aid to strapped state governments. that means they won't have to lay off firefighters, police officers and teachers in some cases. speaker nancy pelosi says she will call the house back from a break to give the bill final passage. the aid won't add to the federal deficit since cuts are being made elsewhere, but republicans are unhappy, saying the money will allow the states to duck some tough budget decisions. president obama is in his hometown of chicago tonight. it's his 49th birthday, but it's kind of an unusual one. his family is nowhere in sight. nbc news white house correspondent savannah guthrie is traveling with the president
and joins us from the windy city tonight. savannah, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. well, the president is here in chicago for some democratic party fund-raising and an event at a ford plant tomorrow, but he will have a birthday dinner with friends tonight. no family around, though. daughter malia is at summer sleep-away camp and the first lady and daughter sasha are on a lavish trip to spain. the president flying solo tonight, heading to chicago to spend his 49th birthday as a bachelor with only first dog bo to keep him company. mr. obama did get a serenade at the white house today from winners of citizen medals at the white house today. ♪ happy birthday to you >> reporter: but the union group he addressed earlier in the day did not let him eat cake. >> i'm disappointed there wasn't a cake, though. i'm going to have to talk to the secret service about that. >> you talk to those guys, because they nixed the cake.
>> they're probably eating it right now. >> they are. >> reporter: right now mrs. obama and younger daughter sasha are a world away, on a five-day, mother/daughter vacation with a group of friends in the coastal resort town of marbella, spain. they are staying at the ritz carlton retreat which features five restaurants, a spa and private beach. all the amenities expected of a five-star hotel favored by celebrities, including privacy. >> so we understand the obamas have booked 30 rooms, suites go up to $6,500 a night so they're looking at a pretty hefty bill at the end of the four days they're going to spend there. >> reporter: the obamas will pay their own way but the cost of mrs. obama's traveling staff and security detail will be born by american taxpayers and the money she spends will boost the spanish economy, something the white house declined to get into today. >> she is a private citizen and
is the mother of a daughter on a private trip. >> reporter: a european vacation for a first lady is not unprecedented, nor is sniping about it. >> jacqueline kennedy was criticized for going to greece and to italy, so certainly michelle obama -- the criticism of michelle obama would not be a first. >> reporter: well, the first family also plans to spend a weekend in the gulf coast this month as well as spend ten days on martha's vineyard. we can report tonight that the president got two calls today. mrs. obama and sasha called from spain and malia, who's on that summer camp sleepaway camp just gets one call during that time at camp. she saved it for today and called her father to wish him happy birthday, lester. >> that was a great call i'm sure. savannah, thanks very much. on wall street today, stocks finished modestly higher. the dow gained 44 points closing at 10,680. that's close to a three-month high. when we come back here
about like equal rights doesn't mean anything. what would you do with your money if you were a billionaire? 40 have pledged to give half their wealth to charity. they have joined warren buffett and bill gates in a campaign to give their wealth away. among the donors, michael bloomberg, t. boone pickens and media bigwig ted turner. health news and a warning for pregnant women. don't gain too much weight. a new study shows women who gain more than 50 pounds during pregnancy gave birth to heavier babies who were themselves more likely to end up overweight and face other health problems. when we come back, a young man making a difference with every step he takes.
finally tonight, our making a difference report. zack bonner is just 12 years old and he's decided to make a cross country trek. with every step he's making, a difference. nbc's lee cowan tonight with a tale of a boy and his wagon on a mission. >> reporter: dawn over the desert, before the mercury sizzles past 100. inside, zack bonner is fueling up and lacing up. he's off on his morning walk, determined to get through a lonely patch of scruff outside mesa, arizona. the beginning of another rough day.
>> it is rough, but it is what i have to do every day. >> reporter: homeless kids. they are zack's reason for walking. not just today but every day. his goal, to walk across the country. eight states, 2,478 miles, to raise awareness and money for one simple thought. >> when you're having a bad day, you know, to realize that someone else is having a lot worse of a day than you. >> reporter: this pint-sized philanthropist puts himself in their shoes, day and night, wandering through big cities, small towns and wide-open spaces. the only thing matching his passion is really his pace. he's already covered more than 1,900 miles simply by putting one foot in front of the other, walking on average about 20 miles every single day. what do your friends think? >> some of them get it, some of them don't. >> reporter: there have been new friends along the way. kids not on the streets by choice.
>> each one has $100 on him. >> reporter: as he passes through, he stops to help, using the money his walk has raised to help homeless kids buy clothes and school supplies. >> i'm never going to forget him. never. >> reporter: zack's passion blew in on the wind, literally. when hurricane charlie hit his hometown of tampa, he was only 6, but began collecting water in his wagon for those hardest hit. >> i think he just likes feeling useful. >> reporter: his mom, who now drives zack's chase car, says he hasn't stopped helping since. >> i guess this might be what he's meant to be doing at this time in his life. >> reporter: it's a path with a purpose, and somewhere under a rainbow, zack's walking it, one step at a time. lee cowan, nbc news, mesa, arizona. that's our broadcast for this wednesday night. thank you for being with us. i'm lester holt in for brian williams. we hope to see you back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com
tradition alone cannot support legislation. >> amen. an historic ruling leads to cheers from prop 8 opponents as the judge rules that the ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. good evening, everyone. i'm jessica aguirre. >> and i'm tom sinkovitz. prop 8 overturned. tonight same-sex marriage is legal once again, but wedding invitations are not going out yet.